Don’t Call It a Coffee Shop

Matthew Hickman is a single-origin roaster and a doubly busy business owner. Photo by Rimas Zailskas

Matthew Hickman is busy enough. He and Lisa Hoffman own Hendersonville’s Underground Baking Co., a rustic artisan bakery located on 7th Avenue downtown, and plenty of people buy bread and pastry from there. One burgeoning business wasn’t enough, though. Earlier this year, the couple extended their reach by opening Independent Bean Roasters just down the street. The business, which roasts coffee and sells in bulk or by the cup, focuses on the “farm to cup” aspect of the hot beverage. (In that way, “it’s similar to what we’ve done with the bread at the bakery,” says Hickman.) Hoffman expertly designed the space, in the storefront that housed the historic Crystal Barber Shop from 1922 to 2016. It’s sparse and functional, which allows employees to focus on roasting and interacting with customers. Hickman is big on educating them, too; recently he found time in a busy schedule to tell Bold Life how it’s done.

Why open a new place?
Independent Bean Roasters really started because of my own interest and passion in coffee. I’ve been a professional baker all of my life and have been driven by coffee. I was a home roaster. After seven years or so working to grow the [first] business we looked for a complementary concept, something that would work along with the bakery, but have its own identity. We wanted to have in-house roasted coffee that went along with our passion for bread and pastries.

How busy are you with two businesses?
I joked that we should have called it Two Doors Down Coffee, because we are back and forth all day long. We have walkie talkies, so when our barista needs something we can run it down there.

Why don’t you identify as coffee shop?
We’re a craft coffee roaster and an espresso bar. The space is where we roast the coffee, but also gives guests a really unique, intimate view of the world of roasting. We tie that all together with them being able to enjoy a cup of coffee.

What makes your coffee different?
We are a single-origin roaster. Everything we have has a different story, comes from a different part of the world, has different characteristics and different taste profiles. We can walk people through that like a coffee concierge. We have our baseline coffees that we do, but we’re really intent on sourcing very unique and very well-grown and responsibly grown coffees. We’re not direct trade, but we’re one step away from that.

Is your clientele similar to your bakery customers?
We’re getting some “coffee people” in who really know their stuff, but most of the customers are people who are really curious and interested in a whole new level of coffee that they’ve never been exposed to. We’re educating people and bringing them in where they can see the operation.

Independent Bean Roasters (346 7th Avenue East, Hendersonville) is open Tuesday through Friday from 7:30 am-2pm and on Saturday from 8am “until.” For more information, see independentroasters.com.

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